Kids Are Reading for Fun a Lot Less Than They Used To

The number has consistently declined since 1984 when researchers started collecting data.

two children read a book together

The world is constantly evolving, and the society we grew up in is different than the ones our kids are experiencing now. It’s not all bad, of course, but research shows that our kids are reading for fun a lot less than we did – and that number continues to decline.

The Pew Research Center reports on a survey conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which shows the significant hit reading for fun has taken with our kids.

“The shares of American 9- and 13-year-olds who say they read for fun on an almost daily basis have dropped from nearly a decade ago,” the research center explains. And those numbers “are at the lowest levels since at least the mid-1980s.”

To assess kids’ reading habits in the US, the NAEP looked at how, over time, the frequency of reading for fun has changed through the long-term trend (LTT) assessment. The latest data comes from the 2020 LTT reading assessment, which included data samples from 8,400 9-year-olds and 8,900 13-year-olds.

Across both age groups, the percentages who said they “read for fun on [their] own almost every day” during the 2019-2020 school year were at the lowest. Moreover, the number had consistently declined since 1984 when the research center first began asking this question.

Among the 9-year-old students, the data shows that 42 percent said they read for fun almost every day. That number is down from 53 percent in both 1984 and 2012. The data also shows that 9-year-olds who said they “never” or “hardly ever” read for fun on their own time were at their highest at 16 percent, compared with 9 percent in 1984 and 11 percent in 2012.

The data among the 13-year-olds surveyed wasn’t much better, with 17 percent saying they read for fun almost every day, down from 35 percent in 1984 to 27 percent in 2012. “About three in ten students in this age group (29 percent) said they never or hardly ever read for fun, up 21 percentage points from the 8 percent who said the same in 1984,” the research states.

It’s important to note that since this is a long-term study, the data from this year’s report surveyed both private and public school students before the COVID-19 pandemic started. So, right now, it is “unclear whether the pandemic may have changed these patterns,” Pew Research Center states.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has consistently encouraged parents to read more to their kids, starting from birth and reducing screen time. Starting from an early age gives kids a vital jump on literacy, and doing so has a lasting positive impact.